out with the old, in with the canoe

A few of my hopes for 2013:

visiting magical places, writing by hand and blending in with nature

visiting magical places, writing by hand and blending in with nature

having fun with this guy

having fun with this guy

cooking with abandon (and sometimes fire)

cooking with abandon (and sometimes fire)

enjoying where I am, chronologically

enjoying where I am, chronologically

trying new things

trying new things, even when it’s obviously a bad idea



walking new paths

walking new paths

laughing (and causing a bit of a ruckus) with the family

laughing (and causing a bit of a ruckus) with the family

taking the scenic route

taking the scenic route

watching for signs

watching for signs

keeping things in perspective

keeping things in perspective

taking comfort in the fact that pigs occasionally do, in fact, fly

finding comfort in the thought that pigs occasionally do, in fact, fly

it’s all about context

I was out running Christmas-related errands Saturday morning when I saw a sign on the highway about the High Caliber Gun Show that was in Houston last weekend.  Evidently high-caliber gun shows go on whether or not there was a mass murder of 20 elementary school students and six adults the day before. Hey man, that’s cool. Capitalism. I get it.

Guns are fairly ubiquitous in this state. In fact, this long-haired liberal lives in a house that has guns in it. Multiple guns. (They aren’t mine, but they are in my house.) So let me get this out of the way before we go any further: I don’t think all guns should be banned. I think the majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens who would only fire their weapons at another human being as an absolute last resort.

But after last week’s massacre (and each and every one before that), we all realize that we have a major problem in this country. A problem that stems from three things: easy access to high-powered weapons, a lack of mental health care for people who need it and a culture that promotes violence as a way to settle differences, express one’s manhood or escape a life that just didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. This post will talk about the first of that list.

As I read the Facebook comments from my friends on “both sides” of the gun debate (are complex issues really so easy to boil down to just two opinions?), it became clear that one of the problems we’re having with the gun issue is the extremism of opinion on either end. The “I’m an American and it’s my God-given right to own as many weapons as I want” versus the “Won’t someone think of the children and remove all guns from all homes.”

The people in the first group wrap themselves in the flag and tout their patriotism, as if those of us who don’t want to walk around wearing a shoulder holster are somehow less American or care less for our loved ones. The second group wraps themselves in a soft baby blanket of denial about the world we’re living in, acting as if the people who own guns are just one step removed from blowing us all away. Neither is “right,” but the first camp is way more politically active and well-funded. So the first camp is the one who’s been setting the tone for the country.

Argument #1 (and their rallying cry): THE SECOND AMENDMENT

When the Second Amendment was written (1791), guns looked like this:Pistol HawkenPercussion

They were simple, single-shot weapons that didn’t have the capability to kill more than one person at a time. In fact, in the time it took to reload the things, it would have been easy to just tackle the shooter and punch him in the head. The piece of shit who killed 20 children and six adults last week used a gun like this:

assault rifleBit of a difference, no? This killing machine shoots bullets that are “designed in such a fashion (that) the energy is deposited in the tissue so the bullets stay in.”  Wow. And it can shoot 30 rounds in just a few seconds. That’s a lot of killing. And that’s all it’s good for. Not hunting–if you shot a deer with something like this, you’d be left with pieces of meat, not a trophy to hang on your wall or steaks to put in your belly. Not target practice either–anything with a finger (human, monkey, those skinny potatoes) could fire something like this and hit a target. Eventually. No, this machine is made for killing. And that’s all it’s made for.


“There are already assault weapons and the related bullets/magazines out there, and there’s no way you’ll get them all back. We may as well keep selling them.” Bullshit. If we found out that 100 people have a jar of anthrax in their basement, that doesn’t mean we should make more and sell it to whoever wants it. Yeah, some people own scary big murder machines filled with extra-murderous bullets. Most of those people are probably as sane as any of us, and some of them are probably batshit crazy, just waiting to be fired or dumped before they go on a rampage. There’s not a lot we can do about that. But what we can do is make an effort to keep those machines out of more people’s hands going forward.


That might be true. Sometimes. But in the case of the most recent killer, if his mama hadn’t had those guns sitting in her house, it might have been more difficult for him to have access to them. Shit, when I was 20, I had a hard time finding beer money. And if it had been more difficult, maybe he would have found a different way to express his hatred/mental illness/whatever than by killing 26 people in a matter of minutes. Instead of fixating on all those guns in his childhood home (which, I can pretty much guarantee, were accompanied by a hearty dose of paranoia meted out by the person who purchased so many high-caliber weapons), maybe he would have found a different outlet. Dubstep. Paintball. Fucking the person of his choice. Macrame. Whatever.

Instead of taking the hypothetical to its most negative and defeatist conclusion (criminals will find a way regardless, so let’s just shrug our shoulders and make it easy on them), let’s try another approach. Let’s try making it a little harder on the bad guy or the disturbed young man and see how that works out. We’ve tried it the other way, and it’s obviously not working. I wrote a post about smoking pot with a former President last week and my blog was suddenly visited by the men in black. Hows about they visit people like the Aurora movie theater shooter who bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition and four guns in the weeks before the shooting.


This is the easiest one. If you think having a stash of assault rifles is going to protect you from military drones that will shoot you while you’re sitting on the toilet, carefully clutching your gun while your eyes dart around the room, you’re a fool. I mean, to truly be able to fight back, you’d need nuclear weapons and stealth bombers, right? Annually, the US spends more than $200 billion on defense procurement and R&D. The People don’t stand a chance, militaristically. (Not to mention, to truly be a foe, you’d need to learn some hacking skills because the first thing they’ll do is attack electronically. Make your car inoperable. Wipe out communication devices. Take away your money. And your FACEBOOK!)


Just as it’s no longer legal to “own” another person and women now have the right to vote, some laws evolve with the times as we evolve with the times. It’s time to put the Second Amendment in its current context, which includes a close review of the guns that are currently available to regular Joes. To be clear: I believe in the right to bear arms. I don’t believe in the right to bear nuclear arms. Or assault weapons. Or magazines that hold 30+ bullets. Or surface-to-air missiles. Or weaponized honey bees. Or Taylor Swift albums. You get the picture.

Guns don’t need to be completely outlawed. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll be happy there are guns in my house. (Until we run out of bullets and have to resort to stabbing them with the broken off handle of our broom.) But there is absolutely no reason that regular, crazy old Americans should have access to as many military-grade high-caliber killing machines as they can afford. (ed. note: US civilians cannot purchase true military-grade guns, only modified versions of them, though they can purchase military-grade gear like body armor.) And when some asshole suddenly starts buying a shitload of ammunition and enough guns to outfit a small army, maybe it wouldn’t hurt for someone to check that shit out.

Finally, John Oliver was credited with this quote (though I haven’t been able to track down where he said it or if he said it): “One failed attempt at a shoe bomb, and now we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one (mass) shootings since Columbine, and no change in our regulation of guns.” I can’t say it any better than that.

It’s all about context.

opinions are like assholes

Everybody has one. Except that poor fellow who was born without an asshole and had to poop through his elbow. Best we not talk about it.

Jimmy Carter said last night that he was in support of the legalization of marijuana. Or, specifically, he said: let’s see how it plays out in Washington and Colorado now that they’ve legalized it. If the dope smokers don’t leave the stove on and burn the place down or endanger the Cheeto supply, maybe other states can follow suit with a little more confidence.

Having been a bartender for a decade, I’ve seen people on all sorts of drugs. The most irritating were always the cokeheads (meth wasn’t around back then–I’m sure it would win by a landslide) (if for no other reason than the sores). Then came the drunks. The potheads were always the least irritating. What’s not to love about people smiling and laughing and talking about how great Phish is? In fact, I wish they’d dump THC in the water supply so some people would take a deep breath and calm the fuck down.

I have President Carter’s autograph. He did a book signing in Houston in the mid/late ’90s at a Barnes and Noble way out in the boonies. Somewhere (probably tucked safely in the book because I’m all organized and shit) I still have the slip of paper that was handed out before you got to the front of the line. I remember it said something about how he couldn’t accept gifts, and I’m pretty sure it mentioned cookies in particular. Which I get. Who wants to eat stranger cookies?

It’s impressive how socially and politically active Carter has remained since he left office. He’s the real deal. It would be fun to smoke some weed with him. While wearing sweaters and talking about turning the thermostat down a little.

(Point of clarification: A lot of people who are pro-legalization are not themselves pot smokers. They just think it’s ridiculous to put people in prison for a little wad of herb in their pocket. I would assume Mr. Carter is in that group and do not mean to suggest he puffs, passes or bogarts.)

this dog food’s delicious (I’ll kill you)

Weird shit goes on in this house.

I’ve mentioned the grave (we assume and hope it’s for a dog) in our backyard. Electronics and lights turn themselves on. There are noises. Feet shuffling through the living room when no one’s there. The doorknob jiggling late at night (and, according to the peephole in the front door, by an invisible hand). The dogs don’t like to be in the kitchen and slink through the room when they want to travel to another part of the house (they do seem to get over their fear when cooking is happening, especially if chicken is involved). Something has died in the walls. Twice.

Things are just a little off. Light switch plates and outlet covers are slightly off level. We have an abnormal amount of spiders in the house. Twice a snake has snuck onto the interior back porch. Weird mushrooms grow after a good rain. I’m not trying to suggest there’s some supernatural explanation for any of these oddities, but I will say this is the strangest place I’ve ever lived.

For instance, this morning. James was already gone, so it was just me and the dogs. Stella was wrapped up in a blanket on her little dog bed under my desk, and Dali was in the living room having breakfast. Dali is very protective of her food–even though she’s never missed a meal and no one tries to eat her food. (I gave it up years ago.) She will often growl at Stella (and sometimes me or James if we get too close to her bowl). I was in the bathroom finishing my toilette when I heard Dali’s low growl. I poked my head into the living room, expecting to see Stella near Dali’s food. But Dali was alone. And looking into the kitchen.

In case we had a visitor (I would hope that Dali would provide more than a low growl if someone were in the house, but she’s kind of lazy), I put some clothes and my glasses on and went to check it out. No one was there. I went back to the bathroom. Dali started growling again, and again she was staring into the kitchen. I made a big production out of walking through that part of the house and letting her know that it was just us chickens, but she was unmoved.

If it wasn’t the boogeyman, perhaps she was bothered by this:

these eyes have seen things

these eyes have seen things

This is a reindeer that my parents made for my grandparents about 25 or 30 years ago. The eyes have yellowed, but otherwise this little guy is in great shape. When it gets closer to Christmas, I do what my grandparents used to do–tie it up on the front porch like a pet. But for now, it’s just a couple of feet from Dali’s bowl. Staring at her. Maybe that’s who she was growling at this morning, though she was looking the opposite direction. She’s not the smartest dog in the world.

Or maybe she can see things in the house that I can’t. Not that I go in for that hoodoo bullshit. Except, of course, for the time I accidentally took a picture of a scary fucking black blob inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Let’s just say I’m open-minded to the possibilities. And so is Dali.

a thanksgiveaway

I’m giving away two tickets to see Louis CK in Austin next month. I bought them when the Houston show was sold out (because I wasn’t going to miss this tour). Then he added a second Houston show (to which I scored front row seats) (yes, it was fecking awesome), so I’m giving the Austin tickets away. Maybe to you.

Here’s the deal:

  • You must live in Austin (or somewhere in Texas, if you can convince me that you’ll be able to see a late show in Austin on a Thursday night)
  • You must agree to email me a picture from the venue, preferably from your seat, the night of the show
  • You must leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite Louis CK bit is (from his stand up or his series) and why – I want these tickets to go to a fan

In exchange for the above, I will email you the link to print the tickets within a few days of the show (not sending earlier than that because I don’t want them to be resold).

Here are the specific details about the show:


UPDATE: Thanks to the three people who’ve chimed in so far. I’ll be drawing a name from a hat (or maybe a bowl) some time tomorrow. Not sure if I’ll do it in the frenzy of the morning or the drunken stupor of the evening. Either way, I’ll email the winner and post the name here.

As for the rest of you – you have at least 24 hours left to enter. Be sure to follow the simple instructions above. (There are two reasons I’m giving away these tickets in this fashion: 1. I didn’t want to have to choose from among my friends and 2. this is a chance for us to share some funny shit with each other. It’s a small price to pay to see one of the greatest comics of our generation, even if they are balcony seats…)

FINAL UPDATE: And the winner is…

Thanks for playing!

lil hos

This weekend, while other people were clogging the arteries of grocery stores buying food for Thanksgiving, I was hitting other stores buying gifts for Christmas. I do most of my shopping online because I don’t like doing it in person, but there are some things I like to buy in real time. Like clothes for my niece and nephew. I’ve got to see how shit looks together, and that’s best accomplished by holding things up to one another.

I’ve had this battle every time I’ve gone clothes shopping for Rowan and Molly, at least at Target. There are great options for boys. Different colors, cool designs, etc. But for girls, it’s like we’re bringing up a generation of hoochies just waiting for their fake tits and fake tans. All (and I almost literally mean ALL) baby girl clothes have lace and sparkles and shit. I had to look for AN HOUR to find three shirts for Molly that didn’t look like pole-dancer-in-training material.

Of course, I could get Molly clothes from the boys’ section. She could have her pick of dinosaurs, motorcycles, super heroes, tools, dogs and more, with nary a ruffle, feather or shiny bit to be seen. But Molly is pretty girly (as was I when I was little – obviously some of us grow out of it and never return), so it doesn’t feel right. It’s not that I don’t want to get her girly stuff. It’s pretty fun to buy (hence, the tutu I got her for her 2nd birthday). I just want them to turn down the volume on the whorish stuff, at least for the under-10 set.

Molly in her tutu – sweet, sassy and tough as nails

As for Rowan, I’m most excited by this purchase:

okay, you’re thinking “Darth Vader tee shirt, big whoop,” and I feel you but look at the mother loving back of the thing…

…it’s got a fucking CAPE attached to it, son

I realize that young Rowan probably has no clue who Darth Vader is, but I’m hoping he’ll dig on the fact that it has a freaking cape attached to it. If it weren’t socially frowned upon, I might consider wearing shirts with capes. Because sometimes you just want to fly.

And because sparkles and rhinestones weigh you down.

brain dump

is it still an honor if they spelled it wrong?

  • Does it seem like it’s getting dark really early? I know we just switched from daylight saving time (an outdated irritation), and that’s certainly part of it. But it starts getting dark around 4:30PM. By 6PM, it’s night. I don’t remember it getting dark so early in past years. This is probably a stupid question, but it’s really been bothering me.
  • Saw the same car on the way to work Monday and Tuesday mornings this week. I remembered it because its license plate reads EVIL E. On Monday, I wondered whether that stood for Evil Eye, Evelyn, Evil Erin, Ice T’s DJ… Then I saw it again on Tuesday, about fifteen minutes later than Monday but in approximately the same spot, and it made me think that the cosmos was repeating patterns. That theory was validated when I got to work and did the exact same thing I’d done on Monday. To change things up today, I didn’t wear pants to work. Didn’t see EVIL E either, so maybe it worked.
  • We’ve had a natural gas leak at the end of our driveway for two weeks. We called it in on Halloween night. Someone came out around 11:30PM, said he couldn’t fix it but it wasn’t a “bad” leak. A few days later, when no one had come to fix the leak and I was tired of smelling it every time I exited my driveway, I called it in again. This prompted a hillbilly voicemail letting me know we were “on the list” and I shouldn’t call it in again because we were “on the list.” He said “on the list” approximately 734 times in the sixty-second message. He called again two more times, finally catching me on the third round, and again told me about the list. I asked if he could give me an indication of when we’d be at the top of the magical list, and he said that all he could tell me was “We know about the leak. It ain’t bad because it ain’t sputterin’ or hissin’ or nothin’, so you don’t need to worry about it. You’s on the list.” Well, hillbilly gas man, you’re on my list too. Now come fix my fucking gas leak. Please, with NASCAR on top.
  • I like to hand wash my car whenever possible, but a recent day found me with a muddy car and no cash. I went to Bubbles for a quickie no-touch wash. Since I was last there (months ago), the place has become almost completely automated. There used to be a guy who took your order and swiped your card, then another two or three who directed you into the machine and scrubbed the front and back bumpers. On this trip, I took my own order and swiped my own card. There was one guy cleaning the front and back bumpers and another guy lurking in the vacuum area, but that was it. Though I am at times hermit-like and don’t mind limited human interaction, I thought this kind of sucked. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto. Thanks for taking our jobs.

UPDATE: A number of you expressed concern here and elsewhere about my gas leak (har har), so I wanted to provide an uneventful update. I called Center Point and had a bit of a chat with a lovely young man who seemed to understand the bad PR possibilities of a CP employee telling me to quit calling about an active gas leak that I can easily smell whilst walking by.  I told the dude that after those houses blew up in Indianapolis (either from a gas leak, asteroid or missile), it made me afraid that we might have a bigger leak underground that will show itself in dramatic fashion. I hope it’s as inconsequential as the hillbilly suggested it was, through a mouth full of Skoal and not teeth, but I’d rather be on the safe, non-explosive side.

The guy on the phone said that customers should never feel like they can’t call a leak in and that he’s put our work order on the fast track. We’ll see what happens. In the interim, don’t wear your skates over to my house.

old yeller

meet the new pot, same as the old pot

I have many treasures from my grandparents’ house. Though I am slowly (very. slowly.) downsizing my belongings in an attempt to simplify, there are some things I have a sentimental attachment to and don’t want to get rid of. For instance, the yellow pot on the right. It belonged to my grandmother. I was lucky to eat many delicious meals made in that pot. In the years that I’ve had it, the meals have continued (and have, hopefully, continued to be delicious).

But there’s a problem: the formerly white enameled inside has worn down to the cast iron. This pot isn’t meant to be down to the cast iron, and I’ve thought about replacing it for some time. The emotional attachment made that hard to do. Until this weekend, when I put old yeller out to pasture and replaced it with a new model. Not because I no longer care, but because sometimes it’s good to let go.

When my grandfather died, seven years after my grandmother, his house had to be emptied so it could be sold (and, as is the way these days, torn down so a monstrosity with two elevators could be put on the lot). They’d lived in that house for over fifty years, and it was full of memories. In an attempt to hold on to my grandparents a little while longer, I brought a lot of their stuff home to join with my stuff. And when my brother died, I did the same thing. It’s nice to be able to hold something that the person you’re missing used to hold. It feels like a tangible connection to someone who’s not tangibly here anymore.

It’s been almost three years since Mason died, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t need a tangible reminder for him to be present in my life. I think about him every day. My brother Tohner and I tell Mason stories all the time. We also like to guess what he would say about a given situation if he were still here. I don’t need to sit on his couch (currently residing in my living room) to connect to him. He’s always here. And occasionally when I’m on the phone with Tohner and he barks out laughter that sounds just like Mason’s, it’s almost like he’s on the other end of the line. He lives on in photos, memories, stories and shared DNA. The stories we tell, the memories we share–those things are what connect us. And they will never be replaced, even when the enamel has worn thin.

All this being said, I haven’t thrown old yeller away yet. Just put it in the back of the kitchen cabin for now. I’m not quite ready to let it go, though I know I will some day. And it’ll be okay.


what kind of fortune is this?

  • I saw a one-legged woman on crutches doing her grocery shopping. She nudged the basket with her body because her hands were busy on the crutches. Did the fat scooter people who were riding around buying shitty food feel a little bit lazy?
  • Do people who have obnoxious vanity plates on their car feel like assholes when they are  in a funeral procession?
  • Does Charo’s body ever just want to wear a soft cotton tee shirt and stretchy pants instead of being stuffed into tight, strappy, sequined leather?
  • When are we going to drop this daylight saving time charade?
  • Why is this video (very NSFW) so fucking funny?
  • Do crazy people who live in cabins in the woods go crazy after they get there, or do they arrive like that?
  • What keeps knocking on the side of our house at night just on the other side of the wall behind my desk?

for love, not money

I subscribe to about 50 blogs. The exact number ebbs and flows as people get added and dropped. My reasons for dropping a blog are generally:

  • they start getting preachy about shit I don’t want to be preached to about
  • they’ve received a bit of national press and have been changed by the experience (in a negative way)
  • they turn the blog into a blatant attempt to make money/get a book deal/”monetize”

I’ve watched it happen numerous times. It’s always disappointing.

There’s a guy out in West Texas who initially blogged about off-grid living in the middle of nowhere. His daily posts were an interesting peek into a more simple, if not more difficult, way of life. Then the New York Times came to visit. His posts for the few months after that became a lot more self-congratulatory. (I don’t know how he was able to type with only one hand available.) The NYT story led to a few other stories. The posts were no longer about his lifestyle–they were about his life’s style. He was selling a commodity, wearing a costume, pretending. He became a caricature. I dropped him after a time, and a recent check in on his blog shows that he’s now gone off on a religious zealot/Armageddon tangent. Yeah. I doubt the NYT will be back any time soon.

I’ve grappled with how to manage content for this blog, and I understand having conflicting emotions about how to do it over the long haul. For a while, I was beating myself up for not posting often enough, or not being political enough. But then I realized: I want to write about whatever I want to write about at that moment. Sometimes I want to write about politics. Sometimes farts. Sometimes nothing (hence the occasional week-long silences). Since I’m not selling anything, I don’t have to conform to a theme or a schedule. I can do WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT. And therein lies freedom.

This blog won’t catch the eye of the NYT, but the good news is: you won’t have to watch me turn into a media-obsessed jackass. (maybe just a regular jackass)

no exit

My first mistake was not going to the gym after work. That’s what I’d planned to do. Had my gym clothes in the trunk and my iPod was fully charged. But when I left the office, I was distracted and got on the freeway instead of heading under it into downtown. As soon as I realized my mistake, it was too late. I was committed. No exit.

So I did what I often do on the drive home–I called my brother. I drive a stick (that’s what she said) and don’t like to tie one of my hands up with phone bidness, so I put in earbuds when I’m rolling.

The traffic was more stop than go. I grabbed my buds out of the glovebox, stuck them in my ears and picked up my phone to call Tohner. How long does it take to glance down, wake the phone up, go to FAVORITES and hit a button? Maybe five seconds? I’ve never really paid attention because it’s never been an issue.

Just as the line started ringing, I heard honking behind me. Beep-beepbeepbeep-BEEP-beepbeep. I looked in my rearview to see what was up. Was my car on fire? Was a cow on the road? Did someone fall asleep at the wheel? (That last would have been hard to determine because we weren’t really moving.) Then I saw him. The smug fart-smeller in the car behind me (a Volkswagen with out-of-state plates). He was gesticulating my direction.

He did the two-finger thing, where you point at your eyes and then at someone else to let them know that YOU’RE WATCHING THEM. Then he made like he was texting on an invisible phone. He said, “I SAW YOU” and kept making the same movements. I think he may have been semi-erect, he was so excited.

Thing is, this self-righteous prig didn’t realize that I wasn’t, in fact, texting and was, in fact, doing what I could to minimize the impact of my phone on my driving. I considered responding to his shitty theatre with some of my own but decided to leave him in his misery. I mean, what kind of situation do you have to be living in to get such delight in acting like a little bitch?

Here’s a photo that sums up how I feel:

Hey! Fuck off!

PS – Tohner didn’t answer.

does anybody really know what time it is?

the fuck?

The yellow tag above was hanging on our door yesterday, alerting us to a water outage. They’re ripping up the two blocks that make up our little neighborhood, an endeavor they say will take nine months or more. Yippee! They begin each morning at 6:30, usually hammering something massive into the ground to rip up the asphalt. The noise and percussion wake me shortly before my alarm clock, and for a split second I think a giant is coming down the street. (This is actually less weird than most of the dreams I wake from, so in some ways it’s a nice break.)

If you look closely at the tag, you’ll see that our water is going to be out today from 10PM to 3AM. Did they mean 10AM to 3PM? That would make more sense, for it to be off while they’re here working. But then they list the times again, again putting 10PM as the start time. So maybe that’s what they really meant…wait. Now it says 3PM is the end time.

Are these walking giants also time travellers? Is that why our water bill is so high?

UPDATE: the water was off in the middle of the night and back on this morning – guess that answers that question

ad astra per alas porci

My radio silence of late isn’t because I’ve been trapped under something heavy and unable to reach my keyboard. I’ve been right in front of my computer a lot, actually, working on a few long shot projects. Things that have only slightly better odds of coming to fruition than the mythical flying piglet in the sky. In addition to the pain of writing artistic statements (which are always entirely more difficult to create than the project you’re writing about), I’ve also been wrestling with this new play. This bastard, assface, frustrating piece of work. And it’s winning. For now.

As is usual when I’m stuck in my own head, I seek out things to stimulate my brain and, hopefully, help me work around the mental roadblock. One great source of unending interest is the ARTISAN VIDEOS section of Reddit. It’s a joyous thing to watch skilled artists do their thing, like:

There’s something wonderfully soothing about watching people work with their hands. And there are other distractions to be found, so many things to do other than the task(s) at hand. This isn’t a video, it’s an image. A very funny image that is now the background on my work computer. It was simply titled, “I was eating some bread, when suddenly…” And while we’re on the subject of dogs, here’s a lovely homage to the dog/human relationship.

Another item I ran across recently: Henry Miller on writing. (How awesome his daily routine sounds. Writing, going to museums, reading in cafes, painting, going on walks and bike rides through unknown areas, making charts and plans.) If you click the link, you’ll notice that his first commandment about writing is “Work on one thing at a time until finished.” I would do well to follow that one.

Going to go work in the yard. Perhaps I’ll find inspiration there.

PS – the title of this post = to the stars on the wings of a pig. John Steinbeck’s motto. Don’t fuck with the Pigasus.

the city and the country (California trip – May 2012)

easy way to remember where you left your car at the airport – guess you could also write this information down, but that’s less interesting – this was our first time to fly out of Hobby Airport – much easier/faster to navigate than IAH

behind the bar at Tosca (I took the same shot last time we were there, in 2009) – we stayed just up the road at Columbus Motor Inn – super economical digs that are in a great location with FREE parking – while waiting for the bus outside the motel, we were engaged in conversation with a “colorful” old lady who said that I smelled good (just the right amount of scent, not too overpowering) and that I must be a good woman so James should occasionally wear “the thong” if he wants to keep “getting that poonanny”


for something different, we spent a couple of nights in Pacifica, a hamlet about 15 minutes south of SF – we stayed at the Seabreeze Motel, an old school beach motel that is located next to Nick’s Rockaway, the happening place for the entire town – the dance floor was hopping both nights, with locals dancing to a surprisingly good cover band playing typical drunk middle aged white people fare: “Brick House,” “Play that Funky Music White Boy,” etc.

we usually get a Hyundai – this car’s bigger engine was nice for all the driving we did in the mountains, though I was a little skeered when we were driving through “warning: falling rocks” areas where you could actually see the rocks rolling down toward the road as you zipped by

we were having a nice picnic at Lake Berryessa when James laid it on me that the Zodiac killer did some of his nasty business there – how romantic

on the back deck of the house we borrowed from friends in Napa – we did a lot of this

we did a lot of this, too

sweet Hana, the dog next door – she stopped in to see us each morning and again in the evening – she was also good for taking care of leftovers

Jarvis Winery, thanks to two passes from our friends Philip and Jonathan – it’s in a fucking cave – seriously, the entire operation (except the vineyard) is inside a cave that was dug with the same machinery that dug the Chunnel – I wanted to rollerblade down its hallways, inevitably falling on my ass and probably cracking my head open in the process

it’s so fancy, there’s a waterfall inside – our tasting group included five drunk Iraqis and a rich couple from Boston – the lady part of the couple and I took a bathroom break – she carried on our conversation throughout our time in the water closet, even as she let loose a rather prodigious fart – didn’t miss a beat


fighting stupidization

Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael – this was the first Ramble that Phil Lesh (bassist from the Grateful Dead) put together with the blessing of Levon Helm (who did his own Rambles at his place in Woodstock) – they played the Band’s “The Band” album all the way through because Levon had died just a few weeks before – the night featured Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes plus a lot of weed

back at Hobby, they couldn’t offload the luggage because of lightning on the tarmac – the bad thing about having wifi on the plane is I was watching a serious storm move into Houston as our plane was doing the same – we ended up stuck there for over an hour waiting for our luggage, then drove through a monsoon to get back home – welcome back!

the haul from City Lights (SF) and Moe’s Books (Berkeley)

bitches be melodramatic

American Theatre magazine (the rag for Theatre Communications Group) asks random questions on facebook every day. Here’s one from a while ago: What advice would you give to a theatre newbie/aspirant? While some of the answers were thoughtful, there were many less useful ones such as:

  • If there’s ANYTHING else you enjoy, do that.
  • get a “real” job
  • Snap out of it!
  • If there is anything ANYTHING else you can see yourself doing for a living DO THAT INSTEAD!
  • Run away fast
  • Run as fast as you can.

Presumably, the people who wrote these responses are 1) currently involved in theatre and 2) into it enough that they’re reading and responding to a question posed by a theatre magazine that they chose to follow on a social networking site. If they aren’t willing to take their own advice, why should anyone else?

Then there were the melodramatic responses, like:

  • You better love it like you’ve never loved anything or anyone else before, because it will love you back while beating the s*** out of you. If you can somehow live without it, find something else.
  • Unless you eat it, drink it, breathe it, and dream it, don’t do it. It must be what you HAVE to do. If not, do something else.

Bullshit. Now, I realize I’m saying this as a playwright who occasionally produces a show and gets a production here and there, not an actor in New York slogging through auditions and being pilloried in the NYT (fingers crossed on that last one). Maybe my opinion doesn’t count as much because, on a day-by-day basis, I’m not “doing” theatre as much as some other folks.

But, for instance, this new play I’m working on. I think about it every day. A lot. I spent all three days of my three-day weekend trying to figure it out. It’s giving me problems, which is fine because once the problems are worked out, it’ll write itself. But I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the time I spend with my hipster fucking notebook or sitting in front of my hipster fucking computer is somehow painful. It’s hard sometimes, but not as hard as high school. Or, like when I was a bartender, cleaning up someone’s puke out of the bathroom sink. That shit was hard. This, this is FUN.

I’m involved in theatre because it’s fucking delightful. I don’t ever expect to make a living from it, and I know it will always be something that I do in addition to a “regular” job. But that’s okay. Because I love it. If I ever reach a point where I don’t, if I ever find myself wanting to tell an aspiring playwright, “run away!” (said like Charles Nelson Reilly), then that’s when I need to reevaluate what I’m doing. Until then, I’ll be happy to share what I know and stress the importance of wine and coffee, a dog to pet and a reader whose opinion you trust.

And to these random facebook drama queens: If it’s so fucking hard–GET OUT. Seriously. Use that BFA from NYU to get a J.O.B. and quitcher bitchin’.

skip to the loo (of MURDER)

(I have so many unfinished, half-baked, lump of clay blog posts in the queue, when I opened my drafts folder tonight I had no idea what the title of this post referred to. But it caught my eye and made me want to open it up, so hopefully it had the same effect on you. On to the post.)


If you don’t like clicking on unnamed things, I’ll give you some details. That’s a link to CLOO.

What’s CLOO?

From the site: “CLOO’ is a community of registered users who choose to share their bathrooms and make city-living easier, while earning a small profit. Using social media connections, CLOO’ shows what friends you have in common with the host, turning a stranger’s loo into a friend of a friend’s loo.”

Yeah, so, basically, you’re in the midst of a large city. You have to pee but can’t find a bathroom. Even though you’re in a hustling, bustling place, there’s no Starbucks, McDonald’s, office building with lazy front desk staff, gas station, grocery store or public toilet anywhere nearby. Or if there is one, for some reason it has a long line of people already waiting. That’s when CLOO comes to the rescue (or sends you to your impending death) (six of one).

You whip out your hand computer and log in to CLOO, which then–through the power of facebook, twitter and the like–shows you the nearest friend-of-a-friend who is willing to let you use their toilet. For a nominal fee. You send them a request, which they receive like a text message. They then have the option of letting you into their home to use their toilet or denying your request. If they accept, you get the details on where they live and how to get into their building.

The fuck? How awkward is it to dash into someone’s apartment to pee (or worse)? And what kind of person would be willing to let strangers (no! friends-of-friends!) come into their home and immediately pull their pants down and let loose? Because in this situation, I’m guessing there’s not a lot of time for chatty introductions. “Oh, so you know Bob?” “Uh, yeah (squeezing).” “I’ve known him since high school, but I haven’t seen him in ages and ages. Does he still live in Albuquerque?” “I really don’t know, um, could I, uh.” “Albuquerque is such a funny word. Makes me think of Bugs Bunny. ‘Should’ve made a left at Albu'” “COULD I PLEASE USE YOUR FUCKING BATHROOM?”

I don’t know which of these two groups would be most populated by murderers, but I can pretty much guarantee this situation is not setting anyone up for success. Murder aside, what happens when you let the person in to pee, they give you a dollar or whatever, do their thing and then want to hang out and chat? Maybe have a cup of tea? And what if they need to pee again while they’re there, from drinking the tea? Do you charge them again?

My bladder is well-known to the poor souls who’ve been on a road trip with me. I gots to pee, pretty much all the time. In fact, as soon as I squeak out this long-overdue post, I’m going to celebrate by peeing. I’ve been in numerous tight situations, needing to go but having no place to do it. But even at my most full, even at my ’bout to piss my pants worst, I would still never use CLOO. Because you know at least one of these bastards has a little hole in the wall with a video camera behind it.

(and yes, it occurred to me that this might all be bullshit – it’s supposedly real but in the “prototype” stage)


This weekend, I visited the fantastic new permanent exhibit at the Houston Musem of Natural Science with my niece and nephew (and their parents and James). I went to this museum a lot as a teen and young adult (mostly with my grandfather), so it was super cool to go with the next generation.

Little man, big dinosaur. Rowan gets his mind blown.

Molly was a little more excited by her smushed penny (featuring a butterfly) than the dinosaurs. She’s two, so, you know.

The pterodactyls were my favorites. CAKAW!

For some reason, this giant sloth was one of the scarier dinosaurs on display. You’re thinking, yeah, right. A giant sloth is scary…

…well look at this artist’s recreation of the bastard. Nope.

Not all of the dinosaurs were frightening.
DINO ON THE LEFT: I got engaged this weekend!
DINO ON THE RIGHT: OH MY GOD! That’s awesome! Does he have a brother? He has to be an herbivore or my parents will kill me. Or maybe that huge comet heading this way will. Six of one.

Why would you get a tattoo right there? You look like a whore. You can’t even see it unless you back up to a mirror, so I have to wonder whom, exactly, this is for. Just wait until your father gets home.

derp (chikfilasaurus)


When we were done with the mind blowing dinosaur exhibit, we headed downstairs to see a cherished old favorite–the space exhibit. Alas, what remains reflects the overall unfunding of the space program. It was a sad shadow of its former self. In the tattered “Mission Control,” there was this random printer. Just hanging out. It was the only technology in there from the past decade or two.

Just behind the sad space area is museum purgatory, where science goes to die. At least throw a coat of paint on the walls or put up posters of the interesting stuff that’s happening elsewhere in the building. (shudder)

On the third floor, I was treated to an exhibit that is EXACTLY like it was when I was a kid. Not sure that’s such a good thing either. It looks like this zebra leg was dipped in red glitter. Maybe they could get some crafty hipsters to freshen up a few of these exhibits in exchange for cases of PBR, glasses from lost/founds of the past and dork cred.

All bitching aside, we had a great time hanging with the dinos. If you’re thinking about going, I recommend you do what we did and get there right before they open. We were the first people in, and we managed to stay ahead of the throngs. Made for a better experience, not to mention better photo opps.

Monday dump

some of the ingredients for last night’s stir fry – it was so colorful, I had to stop and take a picture – now my phone smells like garlic

  • When we go to California on vacation, one of the ways we offset being in an expensive part of the country is by preparing some of our meals instead of eating out the whole time. We always go to Trader Joe’s to get inexpensive food and–more importantly–inexpensive wine. I’m excited that TJ is opening stores in Texas. The first Houston-area store opened in the Woodlands last month, and two more (actually in Houston) will open before the end of the year. We went to the Woodlands location this weekend and weren’t disappointed. In fact, for the hour or so we spent in the store, I felt like we were on vacation. Then we walked outside, and I remembered where I was.
  • I follow a lot of tiny house blogs. You often see the same houses (literally the same photos) over and over, from blog to blog. Which is fine. What’s not fine is that one blog, Tiny House Swoon, has decided to charge 49 cents for you to view their posts. Now, if these folks were searching out the houses and taking the photos themselves, no problem. But they’re just posting things they’re finding on the internet. Needless to say, I unsubscribed.
  • While showering this morning I was thinking that if I were to open an Italian restaurant, I’d call it Manipesto. (some people sing in the shower, some people come up with stupid names for shit) Figured I wasn’t the first person to put that word together, and google confirmed it.
  • A short play I wrote a few years ago–Militia Slumber Party, or Embracing the New World Order–will be produced by Revolution Theatre Company in the Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Festival next month. Revolution Theatre is an awesome repeat customer–this is the third time they’ve produced my work for this festival. If you’re in Chicago, you should check it out. The festival goes for 72 hours straight. I’ve always wondered what kind of stuff is happening in those overnight slots. Because the audience is bound to be drunk. Or over-caffeinated.
  • Got up to pee in the middle of the night. (note to self: quit drinking 20 ounces of water before going to bed) Guess I was half-asleep (and hunched over) because I ran face-first into the wall. Hoping this isn’t emblematic of the kind of week that’s ahead.

uh, no thanks?

Here’s an email I received in my blog’s inbox this morning (not my personal account):

Hi there – I’m emailing you to find out if you’d be interested in reviewing one of our new silicone female toys from (redacted) on your blog. My idea is this: I can send you a free (redacted) or comparable toy (you can Google it), and in exchange, you’d just write a review giving your honest thoughts about the toy, and of course somewhere in the article, link to our website or Amazon listings of the toys. If this project goes smoothly, there are probably other ways we could work together as well. My goal is to let people know about our new brand while providing you with the opportunity to write interesting content for your site. Also, I could give you a personalized discount code to leave in the review (if you like the toy), so that your readers could enjoy the same toy and also save money. So, just email me back and we can get started. I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Thanks!

I get these solicitations on a regular basis. Most of the time, they’re asking me to review something pregnancy or home-cleaning related–you know, things that my target audience and I are really interested in. One thing different about this one: the sender didn’t bcc his email list. So I checked out a few of the other bloggers who were lucky enough to receive this offer. They include:
  • sara_mclaughlin@___ (unless this is about sad puppies, she ain’t interested)
  • an “evangelism resources and more” site (guess that’s one way to praise the lord)
  • a chick who does nothing in her blog except review products (bingo)
  • a 17-year-old farm girl blogger (so, probably illegal to offer her a free sex toy?)
  • a single girl chronicling her online dating experiences (also, bingo)
  • a single Christian woman survival guide (because it’s hard out there for a pimp, and also for single Christian women)

Anything that I sing the praises of on this blog is something that I truly like and want to tell you about. So when the day comes that I tell you about the great silicone vibrator I’ve been using, you can be sure it is something that I purchased with my own dollars and really stand behind. I mean, uh…you know what I’m saying.

And, PS, what “other ways” could we work together? Maybe I send him a blog post, and he has it re-printed on a dildo?

cunning folk

Wanted to knock out a quick post before my friend Lisa comes over for dinner. She’s in town from New Haven, which always makes me think of witches. I guess the “haven” part gets transmogrified in my brain to coven or something. It also seems like a place where Stephen King would set a story about a professor who finds a severed head in his bathroom cabinet that helps him write his lectures. Until it eats his face in his sleep. (Be back momentarily…going to google. Witches, not Stephen King.)

Actually, there were witches hanged and otherwise dispatched in New Haven. So maybe some dim, distant memory from high school history still resides in a part of my brain that the wine hasn’t gotten to yet. While off on a tangent reading about witches, I ran across a wiki page for cunning folk, men or women who practice the magic arts. Though I don’t truck with magic, I would sort of like to be known as a cunning folk. Just make sure you spell it right.

I’m always trolling websites about small houses, living off the grid, etc.. Today, thanks to my friend Reddit, I found this great (and exhaustive) collection of photos chronicling a couple’s redo of a small camper. As I looked at their smiling faces, all I could think about was what those photos would look like if James and I were doing that project. We tend to have…different approaches to getting shit done, so it’s doubtful that we would be as merry as these folks (who, I realize, might have used their editorial discretion when choosing photos). It would be more like, you’d see one of us working alone while the other was kicking something in the background, obviously yelling profanities. But, hey, we always end up getting it done.

I’m out. Lisa’s here, and it’s sort of rude to be typing when I should be making dinner.


transitions, portals and doorways

That last post about Dali always being underfoot, especially in doorways, garnered a comment from Tim Joe that was more interesting than the post itself. Here is his comment, along with my response.

Guarding the portal. Doorways are transitional areas and it is quite normal for creatures to linger between two rooms or two different areas. Humans do it; as do lions, tigers and beers. Bears. Christopher Alexander had much to say on the subject in his “Pattern Language” books. I spent the latter half of my questionable career primarily installing doors and it was the norm to have to shoo away some loafer from whatever opening I was working on.

Last night we discovered that one of the tenants at the Park had transited the portal her ownself. It happens about once a year here at the Whispering Pines, for it is a place where those on the way out seem to linger and wait. Her twenty year old autistic daughter (long confined to one side of a door) could not understand, I think. After two days we looked in and now I am typing poorly and drinking heavily and pondering this deplorable thing called the human condition as the various government agencies and trucks and cops pull away and my deranged buddy (the landlord Miss Jo) fights off the vultures.

We are all just dogs in the doorway no matter how much we may think otherwise. Your photo was only half a story; if photographed from the other side of the door there perhaps would have been a doggy smile or that bottomless look of sincerity and hunger and hope that these varmints are so good at projecting. I know this to be true and it is what keeps me going.

Plus I turned 57 three days ago and what with one thing and another and recent events my mind has been on transitions, lately; lately I find myself thinking about doorways.

I am remembering kindergarten at the Catholic School which was a constant danger; the Penguins where filled with gentle menace and there were bullies there and it was a stressful environment that I constantly sought to escape. By one of those broad strokes that the Cosmos makes when in the mood to meddle with human affairs there was a reading area off to the side of the main classroom. This was a kind of welfare-kid school and the class had mostly boys from pre-school to seven years old. But if you were capable of reading a bit, as I was even at five years old, you were given a gold painted keychain to wear around your neck and thus be granted access to the reading area and asylum from The Challenged. I did it and I read hard and a lot so I wouldn’t have to go back to the General Population.

Then one day (probably after looking at Tenniel drawings) I noticed an oddly shaped doorway just beyond the big stacks of books. It was a portal, really, and when I cautiously peered inside (after taking great precautions to make sure no Sister was watching) I pushed through the spring-loaded panels and found myself in a long tube. It was a fire escape of a big sliding-in-a-tunnel type, a 1960 precursor to what has become a common child’s slide. I pulled the chain from around my neck, took one last look at the stacks of books that had been my refuge, tossed the chain back into the room and slid away to freedom and the future.

Your dog is guarding the portal and contemplating her own journey, no doubt. As am I.

Sorry for the long comment. I have yet to learn to tweet.


My response:
Tweeting is for people who don’t have much to say. Happy belated, by the way.

Regarding portals: the little dog (Stella) will not walk through the doorway from the living room to the kitchen. When I’m cooking, she’ll stand just on the other side of the threshold, lightly barking. Not an angry bark. Just a “come get me” noise. I have to walk over there and spirit her into the kitchen (and then wash my hands, as I try to keep flavor-du-doggie out of our comestibles). She has no trouble going from the kitchen back to the living room. It’s just that westwardly tangent that bugs her.

We’ve come up with all sorts of theories as to why this is. Since my brother died, I’m always looking for evidence of spirit activities (and, almost always, coming up short) (but not always – I’ll get to that in a moment). So part of me thought (hoped) that perhaps there is something, some thing, in that doorway that Stella is scared of. She and Dali often bark and stare at–I don’t know what–when they’re in the kitchen. Things that James and I cannot see nor hear.

The more likely option is that there are mice (or, gasp, RATS) in the walls or under the floors. Another possibility is, since there’s a slight step up to get into the kitchen, Stella has stubbed her cute little feet one time too many and associates that doorway with pain. Until I can teach her to speak English or rip up the floor and tear down the walls, I don’t think I’ll get clarification on this. Which means theories will abound. The one I choose to believe often depends upon my mood at the moment.

Regarding transitions and doorways and spirits and scary shit: I once captured an image of…something. Some thing. Not sure what it was. A black, flowy, man-shaped thing in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in mid-town Manhattan. Here’s a post about it, with photos. Though the blob looks more evil than it does angelic, much like the spirit doorway into my kitchen, it gives me hope that there’s something after this thing. That when we make the transition from here, maybe we go somewhere else.

So perhaps Dali is keeping something out (or keeping something in) when she’s in the doorway. Or maybe she just likes being able to angle her old dog farts my direction when I’m sitting at my desk. I won’t know until I know, you know?

I think my dog is trying to kill me

the view from my desk

Dali, the big dog that James found wandering the streets eight years ago, is a lady of contradictions. She can be the sweetest pup in the world one minute and then bare her teeth, snapping at the air, the next. That shift stays much more on the sweet side the older she gets, but the nasty side is still there and, likely, will always be. We think she has a couple of wires crossed and don’t take it personally. I do think she might be trying to kill me though. Or at least irritate me to death.

As noted in the above photo, which was taken a few minutes ago, Dali likes to occasionally block thresholds with her 70-pound frame. (true story: she once weighed in at the vet at 66.6 pounds) This wouldn’t be that big an issue, except for two things. I move fast, and sometimes when I’m moving fast I have an armload of folded laundry. Which means I can’t see the 70-pound dog that’s sprawled across the threshold until I’m right up on her. This situation requires quick thinking feet, which I don’t possess. (true story: I’m not what you’d call agile) I haven’t hit the ground yet, but I know it’s just a matter of time. The dog knows it, too. So she waits.

Sometimes at night she likes to get off her fluffy, comfy dog bed in the corner and settle on the hardwood floor near the foot of the bed on my side. So when I do my old-lady-needs-to-pee trip to the bathroom in the dark of night, I don’t know she’s there. This recently resulted in me sticking my big toe in/on her asshole, so now I shine the flashlight before I get out of bed. (true story: when you think you’ve touched your toe–or any body part, really–to a dog’s asshole, no matter how tired you are you will still take a moment to rinse said body part off before returning to bed and what is sure to be a night of fitful sleep)

Another thing she likes to do is get in front of me and then walk…very…slowly. I walk with speed and purpose everywhere I go. Even just to the kitchen for a glass of water. When I get trapped behind slow walker and she’s turned the trip between the couch and coffee table into an excursion instead of a quick three or four steps, I can feel my blood pressure rise. I swear she turns around and smiles at me before returning to her laborious gait.

Either she’s trying to get me to slow down a little, or she’s trying to break my neck. Six of one.

THE SINGULARITY sees the light of day (in a dark theater)

pre-reading – I was entirely too distracted to take a decent shot, but you get the idea

THE SINGULARITY. My first full-length play experienced its first public reading last Saturday. This was in Dallas at Kitchen Dog Theater during their new play fest. They read six new plays over two weekends. And it was fanfuckingtastic.

THE THEATER. I didn’t know what to expect. The communications from the artistic directors (Tina and Chris) had been friendly and laid back. My director and I had exchanged a few emails, and she was responsive and nice. Once I saw the cast list, I googled the actors (because I’m a stalker), and they all looked talented and experienced. But you never know until you see people in action. Let me say this: Dallas has some talented mofos. In addition to my reading, I also watched the reading that followed, and the actors and directors in both casts were top notch. I totally plan to steal a couple of their actors the next time we do a show here. The Kitchen Dog people were great, and I’m not just saying that because they plied me (and everyone else) with bloody marys and gourmet popcorn. Though it did kind of make me feel like we were soul mates.

THE READING. There’s nothing like getting your work in front of an audience for the first time. You hope it goes well, there’s a chance it won’t, and you have to relinquish control and just ride the wave right along with the audience. You imagine this world, populated with these people who are trying to reach some sort of destination. And you try to get the audience invested enough in the story that they’ll give a shit about what they’re watching. And if you’re on your game, the people in the audience begin to see the world that you saw in your head when you wrote the script. And if the actors are on their game, and the director has given them the roadmap they need, the audience sees these characters coming to life before them. And the whole lot of you, in that dark, cold theater, go on a journey together. If everyone–playwright, director, actors, crew and audience–has done their job, everyone feels good about the journey once it’s over. If not, they leave the theater saying, “Well that was a piece of shit. Want to grab a drink?” It’s a terrifying and magical situation to be in.

THE DIRECTOR. Rhonda Boutté, the director of my script, did things with the reading that I’ve never seen done before. I already told her that I plan on ripping off her style (as best I can) the next time I’m involved in a reading. She had the actors doing sound effects that were so good, you couldn’t believe they were coming from the people sitting right in front of you. And the effects made the performance feel like so much more than a reading. My script was lucky to have been teamed up with her.

THE TALK BACK. Discussions with the audience after a reading can be terrific or terrible or some nether region between the two. For this reading, I asked my director if I could not talk so much, letting her and the cast address questions from the audience. Glad I made that request because the answers they gave provided me with insight into my play. I already know what I think, so if I’d done all the talking I wouldn’t have learned anything. I’m in the midst of tweaking the script now (does that make me a tweaker?) based on the reading and discussion that followed. Plan on finishing that up today while the performance is still fresh in my mind. Plus, it’s 100 degrees out, James and the dogs are taking a nap and the house is quiet, and I’m waiting to see if TS Debby out in the Gulf is going to grace us with her presence (and rain). The perfect ingredients for playing with my play. Hope you’re having an equally nice Sunday.

[One final thing - if you haven't taken my past suggestion to read The Trailer Park Cyclist's blog, I really recommend you at least read yesterday's post. Where my blog is generally a step or two above a fart joke, the TPC is fucking WRITING. And it's beautiful and heartbreaking and tapping into both good and bad things that are oh so familiar.]

Matt’s back

I first wrote about Matt Harding back in January 2007. I was taken then, as now, by the simplicity of his mission: to see the world and do a little dance here and there, with or without someone in the vicinity. I’ve shown this video from 2006 to numerous people over the years, and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Which begs the question: why? I think the post I linked to at the beginning of this paragraph pretty much spells it out, but I know a lot of you fuckers don’t click on things so I’ll give you the 2012 version.

This guy used to work in an office (like me!). When it was time for lunch, he’d do a little happy dance (like me! except I only dance in my head). He quit his job to go on a trip around the world (like…nevermind). While he was on his trip around the world, he decided to film himself doing his happy lunchtime dance, only this time with the incredible backdrop of Easter Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Great Wall, the great barrier reef or other great shit instead of the fluourescent glow of an office.

Sometimes he’d dance by himself, often with passersby or traffic or a train blazing through the shot. And sometimes people who probably didn’t speak the same language as Matt would join in. Because the physical expression of dance is pretty universal (though the specifics vary by locale). And the universality of this dude doing his little dance with people he didn’t know and probably couldn’t communicate with verbally is just…so…perfect. It’s a simple expression of happiness to be alive, awake, aware.

Matt just posted a new video today. I’m glad that the vibe is still there and he’s not wearing a sandwich board advertising Viagra or Chase Bank. He’s like the US’ dorky ambassador. We’re not all gun toting hillbillies, shooting into the ground like Yosemite Sam while chowing down on a greasy burger as we wait for our liposuction appointment. In fact, most of us are pretty alright.

(if you read this post and don’t click on one of the two videos linked here, you’re missing out) (I wouldn’t steer you wrong)

vehicular relations

screw you, summer (and dust)

Man, it’s a little too early in the summertime for the outside temp to read 100 degrees. What the hell is August going to be like? (shudder)

Driving through downtown earlier, I executed a particularly spiffy move. I knew that the left lane up ahead always gets backed up, so I zoomed around the backup and cut over past the jam just before the entrance to the freeway. (I didn’t cut anyone off. This was a victim-free maneuver.) I was pretty pleased with myself, but that joy was short lived because I almost immediately expected to get side-swiped by a car. Or maybe get smushed by the giant foot from Monty Python. “Aye, yoove crushed me pointy lih-ull haid.”

I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I do occasionally suffer from Catholic-esque guilt. It’s weird. Peer pressure doesn’t phase me. If everyone were jumping off a bridge, I’d probably take pictures and then go through their shit. But self pressure is quite in service in my brain.

See, I realized when I was congratulating myself on my awesome driving that I was being kind of an asshole. So my brain gave me a little slap upside the head by making me worry for a split second that my bravado would be repaid with sudden death. Which is, perhaps, a bit of an over-reaction.

(shifting gears) (get it? because this is about cars!) (ahem)

Headed on a road trip to Dallas this weekend for a staged reading of my play at Kitchen Dog Theater. This will be its first time in front of an audience, and I’m really excited to see/hear how it’s received. Will report back.

he came from somewhere back in my long ago

Today, I will write about two important men in my life.

First, Michael McDonald. My younger, more hip friends think I’m kidding when I get starry eyed over MMcD, but it’s all for real. He’s a cool cat. Pull out a random record from the ’70s, and he’s probably singing back up on it. I’ve seen him in concert three or four times recently, and he still puts on a great show.

MMcD’s occasional “appearances” on Family Guy and elsewhere suggest that I’m not the only one who still digs him. Did you see the Yacht Rock videos seven years ago? So damn funny. A few days ago, I shared a link on facebook to an old Conan bit – Camp Michael McDonald. A friend, John Dunn (not to be confused with John Dunne, who I don’t think is on facebook), responded that he’d done a Nirvana cover, singing as Michael McDonald. I begged for a copy and am excited to be able to share it with you. You’re welcome.


Second, today is James and my 9th anniversary. According to my calculations, I have spent 21% of my life with him. I don’t like to get into my personal relationships on my blog, so I’ll just share this photo instead. Looking forward to more squinty adventures in places near and far for many years to come. You’re a hearty soul, James Noles.

still squinty, after all these years

FREE play, today only

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Sorry to interrupt your Memorial Day. I wanted you to know that my first published play (and really the first play I admit to writing – the two that came before it have been buried at sea, never to be seen again) is available for download on Amazon today. For free.

My publisher, Original Works Publishing, features one free play download each week (they are $5 and up the rest of the time). All you need to read it is the Kindle app, which you can also download for free for your PC or Mac.

Right now, the play is #64 in the top 100 free theater downloads list, right between Shakespeare and Voltaire. I’d like to leave those biddies in the dust today, so I’d appreciate your click. And do yourself a favor – don’t read the review snippets or description of the play before you tackle the short script. Go into it with nothing more than the visual of grown men with stuffed animals on their heads. I’ve included a few images from various productions of the play to help you out.

Back to beer, backyards, sweating and mosquitos.

Thursday list (courtesy of Reddit)

Sometimes in the morning I like to poke around on Reddit instead of reading about how fucked up the world is on all the various news sites. Reddit shows you how fucked up things are too, but there’s usually a good dose of humor to make it go down easier. Here are a few of the gems that I enjoyed the past couple of days. Thanks, Reddit.

  • From a thread asking “what’s the most fucked up game your friends play” comes a game that is pretty funny, even to my old lady sensibilities:In a big group of friends, one person would put their finger to their ear (like a secret service agent) and as the rest of the group noticed they would do the same. When there was one person left without their finger to their ear, everyone would scream “GET DOWN MR. PRSIDENT” and tackle them. On pavement, gravel, whatever. There were some injuries.”
  • Wonder how much time this took? Did they consider any other five-letter words? Booby? Dooky? Titty?
  • At least the view is nice.
  • There’s a KISS tribute band made up of little people. (If you click on the link, be warned that music starts playing immediately.) Upon further investigation, it seems there are TWO mini-people KISS tribute bands. And they are feuding.
  • Stella does this when I’m taking a bath and forgot to let her in the bathroom.
  • Stock photography tells a story. (Funny thing about this is I’m playing BINGO tonight with my coworkers.)
  • I can’t say why exactly, but I find this extremely funny. I look up pronunciations all the time, and his delivery is spot on. Here and here are a couple more. If you find any of these funny, go to his page, click the first video that comes up and just let the pronunciations play. I’ve been driving my coworkers crazy with this one.

the process

[THE SINGULARITY will receive its first public reading (followed by a talkback) next month in Kitchen Dog Theater's new play fest. The theater is in Dallas, so I'll be able to attend. You learn so much getting a script in front of an audience that I anticipate returning home with my head buzzing. Which is good because I think I'm about ready to start writing my next play, and I like having conflicting writing desires.]

Here’s how it usually goes. I have a flash of an idea for a script. It can be a few words, an image, an ending, a beginning or a title. I don’t write this part down because, if the idea is strong enough, my OCD brain will keep rubbing on it like a worry stone. Over time, which can be hours, days or months, this glimpse of a slip peeking out below a hemline will start to have a bit more legs. The characters will begin to emerge from the fog and snippets of dialogue will be tossed around like white plastic chairs in a tiny windstorm. I still don’t write anything down yet.

In fact, I don’t put words on paper until I’m ready to write the play. When that moment comes, it’s full steam ahead, all night/weekend, typing like mad…staring at the screen…talking out loud…delete delete delete…typing slowly…staring…typing fast again…blinking because my eyes feel like sandpaper…refilling my cup with coffee or wine, depending upon my needs at the moment. James tells me that I get crazy-eyed when I’m deep into a story, and that’s his cue to just leave me alone.

[My friend Lisa writes while listening to classical music. Her favorite used to be Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach. I tried doing that, but I kept imagining movie montages or that I was riding a bicycle through Central Park or shopping at Victoria's Secret, and I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing. A lot of writers use music while they create (Albee also listens to classical when he writes), and they say it inflects their dialogue with a musicality. So I hope I can figure that out one of these days. I want to write with musicality and shit. I'm trying to listen to Yo-Yo Ma (no, YO mama) while writing this paragraph, and I'm finding it distracting. Press stop.

I'm back to my regular soundtrack. The freeway (which I pretend is the ocean), the whirring of my ceiling fan, the noise Dali makes when she jumps on the futon in my office (she farts pretty much every time she jumps up there - the curse of being a big, old dog), the birds chirping in the back yard, James tinkering in another part of the house, something clanking in the dryer. Perhaps this is my music, and I should be grateful to have it.]

The physical part of the writing goes on for a couple of weeks, usually. As soon as humanly possible, I pull together the actors I work with (and often write parts for) to have a reading with just me as the audience. After we talk about the work, I return to the computer for the next round of edits. And then the play sits until I can get it in front of an audience in a reading or production. That is followed by another (usually final, if a play can ever really be considered finished) round of edits.

So the reading in Dallas next month is a crucial step in the development of this play. And the timing is perfect – I’ve been thinking about the next play for months now and just last night (“in a dream”) the title occured to me. At this moment, on the Saturday morning of a weekend that is wide open and lacking in commitments, I have opened a word document that has a title across the top.

The journey begins again.

sky blogging

Using wifi on the flight home from California. Was watching  scary radar images of the weather in Houston on weatherunderground.com (great name for a site) when it occurred to me that I could write my first post from space. Or not on the ground, anyway.  And I could also avoid being worried about the pink and purple radar blobs I’m seeing that usually  indicate hail and tornados. After almost a week and a half in the California sunshine (even San Francisco was clear and unseasonably warm), Houston is offering up a kind of shitty welcome home.

That being said, I’m ready to get back. My liver has requested a break from the wine, and my ass has requested a break from the driving. I’ll give a full report about the trip once I’ve gone through my photos.

Stories to look forward to:

- woman at a bus stop in SF offering James advice about getting that poonanny (mine, presumably)

- jackass at concert wearing a Ren-fest leather vest over his massive, quivering flesh who tried to give me a high-five, which I rejected with a slow shake of my head and steady eye contact (marking what I think is the first time I’ve ever not given a high-five) (pictures to come)

- a girl in City Lights talking on her cellphone about her intestinal health problems (loudly) while I’m trying to pick out scripts to read

- a guy in Berkeley who owns “over 2,000″ tee shirts proclaiming he had never seen one with Fight Stupidization on it

- Hana, the dog who will eat anything and her boyfriend Don Juan

- Mexican food in N. California


try, try again

My office is located in a super cool, historic marker-ed warehouse with rickety old wood floors that have splinters and 13′ ceilings with exposed pipes. The industrial elements add to this building’s charm, which is further enhanced by regular photo exhibits by FotoFest on the communal wall spaces. It’s no wonder there are other agencies and architects and arts organizations in this building. It’s a creative space.

The sign above is located on the freight elevator in my building. I doubt that the…editing of the sign was done by any of the tenants. More likely, it was one of the many high school groups that come through to see the exhibits. I like this sign because a) I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old and b) I think it’s a good visualization of comedy.

In the prankster’s first attempt, you’ll note that they removed the second “t” that is crucial to the joke being funny. I would imagine after carefully peeling away “ton” and then standing back to admire his work (let’s face it, 90% plus odds are this was done by a boy), the comedian wannabe realized his error. Or one of his slightly smarter friends pointed it out. Or, he thought it was just fine and it took another person at another time coming along to get the joke right on the second attempt.

Whatever the case, the sign makes me chuckle, and it’s a good representation of what it’s like to write comedy. Edit and tweak until you get it right. And maybe run it by your smart friend first.


safety first

We had our monthly birthday celebration at the office last week. It involved queso, margaritas and music. And also champagne. At the end of the party, there was a half bottle of champagne that had no home. Couldn’t let it go to waste–renew, reuse, recycle–so I took it home with me. I’m all about safety (of my upholstery), so I strapped that baby into the passenger seat before making the drive. I’m glad I wasn’t pulled over by the over-zealous cops in our neighborhood. I wasn’t drinking and driving (I was drinking, THEN driving), but this certainly qualifies as an open container.

James and I are leaving for our almost-annual pilgrimage to N. California soon. In addition to the travel binder we always take on trips, some new technology is coming along. My parents gave me a fancy iPad for my birthday last month, and it was already in the queue to take the place of my much heavier laptop (which I mostly use for checking email and writing trip notes when there’s a break in the action).

We’re lightening the load on this trip. Physically and metaphorically. And I realized yesterday that an app on my iPad (Evernote) could actually be the collection point for many of the things I typically print out and put in the binder. I’ve been spending time this weekend creating google maps and saving webpages with tips about trails we’re going to hike. It’s a thing of beauty. Nerd happiness.

Friday list

Slogan for this demo/remodeling company: "No job it's too small." Wonder how much work they get...

  • Hung out with friends last weekend. Well into the evening (and the wine), someone said to me, “Is it okay if I ask you a personal question?” I always have the same answer. “Of course.” In fact, please ask me a personal question. Because it generally means shit is about to get real. I like it when we move beyond the superficiality of the day-to-day to dig into the hidden recesses. I’d tell you what the question was, but it’s personal.
  • You may have seen links to the short film Caine’s Arcade on teh internets the past week or two. If you haven’t watched it yet, do. The film is ten minutes of fantastic. While you’re watching, imagine if the dreams of all children (big ones, too) were supported in such a loving and respectful way.
  • Here’s a new literary term that I may have made up (but there are no original ideas, so maybe someone else already did): vinfictive - writing presented as fiction that is really a thinly veiled attack on people who have wronged the author in the past. A distant cousin to vaguebooking. Not my kind of writing, but it’s out there. Perhaps I should add a definition to Urban Dictionary?
  • There are a couple of other people at work who love The Band, so in honor of Levon Helm’s passing we’re going to watch The Last Waltz and raise a glass at the end of the workday. That may be the best concert film ever made. Here’s a ridiculous blog post I wrote while watching it on cable a couple of years ago (even though I own the DVD). I claimed to not be drunk, but reading it now I have my doubts.

Bob and Linda

James and I are traveling to N. California soon for vacation. We’re going to stay at a friend’s house in Napa for part of the trip. We’ve never been to the wine country before (since we tend to stay on the coast), so I’m excited about seeing some new sights.

Before realizing half our trip would be spent in Napa, I was checking out yurts and cabins for us to stay in near Point Reyes/Marin County. I read a lot of reviews of these places, trying to find one that would be the right balance of funky-yet-no-bedbugs. As I researched, there was a surprising (but maybe not) thread that seemed to run through many of these independently owned dwellings. Bob and Linda.

Bob and Linda (or Jim and Sally or Barry and Mel) are the owners of the yurt/cabin. You know their names because they are mentioned–frequently–in the reviews. As in, “Bob and Linda couldn’t have been more gracious hosts. They joined us each evening for a glass of wine and a chat.” Or, “We were a little nervous about staying so far out in the woods by ourselves, but luckily Bob and Linda stopped by to check on us and ended up hanging out for dinner.”

I’m sure Bob and Linda are perfectly lovely, and I’m sure they are full of stories about the time they went to the nudist resort or their commitment to veganism (helps move the bowels!). But going on vacation is like a long exhale. And if I’m staying in a yurt or other non-traditional dwelling, I don’t want to make small talk. I want to breathe green air and let my gaze go as far as my corrective lenses allow without being short-stopped by a building or parking lot or smog. I want to sit in comfortable silence or laugh with James or listen to good music or the ocean or the wind in the trees.

We’re in San Francisco for the other half of the trip, where I will be happy to engage with whomever and whatever awkwardness we come across. But that time out in the country is valuable stuff.

Here’s a simple pictorial explanation from our last trip to San Francisco/Big Sur:

standing in the Big Sur River breathing that clean country air = no Bob and Linda

getting drunk in a bar across from City Lights, high on books (and a bit blurry) = bring it on, Bob and Linda

and like that, a piece of my childhood disappeared

(photo from the Houston Chronicle)

Actually, it’s been gone for a few years. Not my childhood (that’s been gone for a long time). A piece of my childhood. A big neon roach sign on the side of a freeway. A sign that, coincidentally, was 42 when it was taken off its post. Interesting.

I’m not a fan of the creepy-crawlies, and roaches are pretty much at the top of my “most hated” list, so you might wonder why I miss that ridiculous thing. It’s because when I was a kid and we drove down that stretch of road, my parents would say, “There’s the roach restaurant where they serve roaches,” and I would squeal in disgust (but also a bit of delight, because what could be grosser?) (gross shit is very interesting and funny to little kids) (even prissy little girl kids, like I used to be).

I don’t travel down 59 that often these days, and the sign hadn’t crossed my mind in a while. But there were a few mentions of it this week because the company is “going with a different look” and decided to dismantle the thing after keeping it in storage for eight years. I guess they wrote a press release about it. I would say this isn’t news, except it is. Here we are.

Thinking about this sign for a couple of days made me think about the relationship I have with my hometown. In a city full of people from elsewhere (and a place recently dubbed “most diverse” in the nation), my family runs deep. I’m third generation Houstonian. My grandfather was born in a house (not a hospital) near where the downtown library stands now. I was born in more luxe accommodations, though I can’t say I turned out any better.

Most people have a conflicted relationship with the place they’re from. I’m no different. I love Houston for its “I don’t give a fuck” attitude and lack of pretention. I hate it for its brutal summers and lack of physical beauty. I love the fact that a certain corner will remind me of people who are no longer here, and I hate the fact that Houston tears down its history so often that you can’t rely on visual landmarks to navigate. If you don’t believe me, drive the few blocks of Kirby between Richmond and Westheimer.

Things like the Holder’s roach sign make me think of a Houston that is gone. When Mason was my bratty younger brother so full of potential, my grandparents still had some color in their hair, my parents were awaiting the arrival of my brother Tohner, Antone’s poboys were good and you could ride a horse in a small park on a busy street corner near the Astrodome (which was still being treated as the 8th wonder of the world). Now Mason and my grandparents are gone, the Astrodome is full of mold and falling in on itself and the little park with the horses is now home to a CVS. Or maybe it’s a Walgreens. Time passes. Shit changes. Roach signs get cut up for scrap, and it’s sort of news because it’s just another reminder of things that are gone, never to return.

My kingdom for a tacky fucking neon cockroach sign.


There are two things I remember from the great Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: thanks for all the fish, and the meaning of life is 42. Because of this book, which I read in high school when the thought of being in my 40s was as real to me as time travel, I’ve always held my 42nd birthday (and the following year) in mind as a period when something special would occur. When I’d reach an epiphany of sorts. When I’d figure shit out. I will turn 42 on Thursday, good lord willin’, so I guess we’ll see.

Here’s a quote from Douglas Adams about his choice for the answer to the eternal question, which many people try to attribute deeper meaning to.

It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do.’ I typed it out. End of story.

That’s actually a pretty apt description of writing in general. You stare off into space, something pops into your head and you write it down. If you’re lucky, it works. It’s both totally magical and completely mundane. One could argue that the subconscious is at work even when it seems like the writer is grabbing bullshit out of mid-air, so it’s possible that Adams had something deeper in mind when he came up with 42. But prolly not. Sometimes a banana…

FOLLOW THE BACON (photo courtesy of the maker)

My brother, father and I have birthdays during the same week in March, and we got together this weekend to celebrate. The bookend/piece of art above is what Tohner made me for my birthday. FOLLOW THE BACON has multiple meanings in our family, from a culinary modus operandi to a way of looking at life. Those meanings take this piece beyond being something useful and fun to look at and morph it into a bigger symbol of shared history, where we are now and hopes for the future.

Tohner said he wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do with the tile when he bought it, but he knew he had to make something for me with it. And he had the faith to know that inspiration would come to him. That’s what separates artists from non-artists – trusting yourself enough to act on instinct, knowing that the rest will follow. Believing that maybe 42 is the answer to everything and that some day pigs will fly, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Friday list

got rid of my po box: The experiment failed. A year ago I rented a PO box for the FIGHT STUPIDIZATION campaign. It was meant to be a place where people could mail me a SASE, which I would return with one or two FS stickers inside. After mailing out over 500 stickers, the postage was becoming a bigger expense than I cared to take on. Sadly, the $40 I spent for the PO box ended up being a shittier financial deal because I only got a handful of sticker requests over the past year. The box rental has gone up to $52 annually, so today I got rid of it and plan to return to the old method. If you would like your very own FIGHT STUPIDIZATION sticker (or need a refresh for your old one), send an email with your mailing address and a promise to send me a photo of the sticker once it has found a home. Your photo will join the rogues gallery on the stupidization page. (Do it.)

punditry on two wheels: Via a comment on my brother’s site, I was happy to be introduced to a super fantastic blog – The Trailer Park Cyclist. While I’m always talking about simplifying things and living in a small place some day, this dude is living the reality. He writes funny, keenly observant posts about living in a trailer park in Florida and working on bicycles. But he’s really just talking about life. (Read it.)

peeing on yourself: My office is divided into three different rooms – the room I’m in is shared with another chick my age and two mid-20 something  women. The other old lady and I love to torture the two younger chicks with doom and gloom stories about aging. They wince when I mention the lone hair that likes to pop out of my chin overnight. They think I’m kidding when I say that there will be nothing there when I go to bed, yet when I wake up there’s a fully formed, 1/2-inch long hair swinging in the breeze. They think it won’t happen to them. They are wrong. Which they will find out when they are firmly in their 30s when this sort of shit starts to happen. And if it’s not a lone chin hair, it’ll be something else. Because aging isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Earlier this week, we were discussing the new commercials featuring a tightly bound and stuffed Kirstie Alley who is hiding out in some lady’s bathroom. There’s a party. The lady–who looks to be thirty-ish–is standing with a group of friends. She laughs, suddenly looks concerned and then runs to the bathroom. Where Kirstie Alley is hanging out, barely able to breathe in a pink dress that is a few sizes too small. (She’s lost a lot of weight, but I don’t think it’s time for that dress yet.) Kirstie Alley asks the woman if she just peed on herself. From laughing. The woman admits that she did. Kirstie Alley recommends that she wear a Poise pad rather than a pad she would use for her period. Which means that this woman would need to wear a pad all day, every day (and night) on the off chance that at some point she laughs.

This commercial makes me feel the way I assume the two young chicks feel. “That will never happen to me, and I’m not even sure this is real or that it happens to anyone.” I mean, if laughing at some lame-ass joke at a boring party with Kirstie Alley creepily hiding in the bathroom has this result, what the hell does a good strong sneeze do? (Hold it.)

brains (I’m gonna live forever)

A couple of nights ago I watched an episode of Through the Wormhole that was about scientists who are seeking ways to extend our lifespans. Indefinitely. Because the reason we eventually die of “old age” (if we’re lucky enough to reach that point) is because our body gets shittier at replicating itself, making crappier and crappier copies until, well, you know. So if you could maintain youthful vigor indefinitely, you could also live indefinitely.

From that concept, the show went on to talk about how we’d have an impossible time fitting on the earth if people stopped dying. But space is not the issue that immediately came to my mind.

Murder is.

In current society, murder is pretty much the worst thing you can do to someone else. Imagine the implications if people have the ability to live forever – barring accidental or intentional death. When the average lifespan is 80 years, say, murdering someone who’s 40 means taking away (potentially) 50% of their time on earth. When you can live indefinitely, you’re basically taking away 100%.

One of the (potential) options for long-term life is keeping the brain alive, perhaps by putting it into another body or some other vessel. So to truly murder someone, one would have to permanently harm the brain so that it can’t find new life in a new vessel.

Which brings me around to this point: injuring the brain is what we do to kill zombies.

It’s all connected…somehow…

(This is the kind of stuff I think about at night when I can’t sleep.)

renewing my TDL, or the fifth circle

Yesterday I completed a rite of citizenry that I haven’t had to face in 12 years: renewal of my Texas driver license. My current license features a photo of me at 30. Not exactly accurate. Nor was my expectation regarding completion of this errand. I expected it would take, at most, an hour and a half. I was 50% correct – it actually took three hours. My phone couldn’t get a signal once I was inside (purgatory doesn’t have wifi), and I didn’t bring a book, so I wrote notes about the experience on my phone. Here ya go:

  • I’m wearing a tee shirt with writing on it – hope they don’t try to turn me away – if they do, I’ll flip that bitch inside out
  • why am I surprised that the two teenagers behind me are actually kind of smart and funny? is my faith in today’s youth really that lacking?
  • do rich people have to stand in this long ass line? I’m not seeing anyone who looks higher up the money chain than lower/middle middle class
  • there’s a guy sitting in his car right by where we’re all standing – it’s idling, and in addition to being able to enjoy the exhaust fumes, we’re also being treated to shitty ’80s dance music turned up too loud – he thinks he’s jamming – he is mistaken
  • almost to the door! only took 40 minutes…
  • four old people pushing walker/seat combos in front of them just cut to the front of the line – one of the women said “you’ll be old one day too” – I hope so, and I hope that I don’t have to cut in line at the DMV wearing orthopedic shoes and pushing a stroller for adults
  • fuck – inside now, and it looks like a refugee camp – there are easily 200 people crammed into this tiny room – hope license renewal goes quickly and these people are waiting to take a test or something
  • near the front of the line – at the one hour point now – the lone clerk just asked dude for his social security card – I thought all I needed to bring was my license
  • they took my thumbprint last time I did this – seems like my thumb should be an acceptable form of ID – if not, maybe middle finger will work?
  • whew – made it through checking in with no second ID required – now I wait
  • no longer worried about my shirt with writing on it – dude in here is wearing a tee shirt that features Brittny Spears (I think?) with no top on, holding two teddy bears over her tits – classy
  • indecipherable number system – I’m number 44 and they are currently serving people in the 900s and 600s – they do this to keep you confused – also keeps you from leaving this dank shithole with no wifi to sit out in the sunshine because you can’t tell where they are in the line up
  • holy cow – deaf girl sitting in row behind me just yelled at an old man to move over because she can’t see the board that tells you what number they’re serving – he’s confused and not sure what to do – she’s yelling (because she’s deaf) and he’s got no place to go – exchanging glances with surrounding people – we have reached silent pact to jump in if this gets any more intense
  • have made friends with tiny little old man with a strong accent whose number is 981 – we’re both confused but for different reasons

All told, I was in and out in three hours. When the chick took my photo, she said, “I’m going to take your picture. You can smile or not.” Yeah lady, I know I can smile or not. Texas hasn’t started trying to regulate my facial muscles. Yet.

hillbilly renaissance

booze / eggs

In an odd (but not uncommon) meeting of the minds, James and I separately purchased the above two items. He bought the Ole Smoky moonshine at Spec’s, and I picked up the Old South pickled eggs at the grocery store. Perhaps this relates to a subtle desire to get back to the land. To simplify. To revisit the old ways. To live in a cabin in the woods (with wifi). Or maybe we have some latent, formerly unknown redneckery.

I’ve always wondered what pickled eggs taste like, so this is something I can cross off my (very long) list. Getting shit done in 2012, people.

Listen to this short clip of rockstar astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about our relationship to the universe. He has such a beautiful way of connecting the micro to the macro. Plus, he’s funny and sharp and wears vests with stars on them.

My play THE SINGULARITY was a finalist for the Reva Shiner Comedy Award. That was a nice surprise. Because it’s a drama.

Not really.

three-ring binder

For the first time in over a decade, I purchased plane tickets on a carrier other than (former hometown bidness) Continental. Nevermind that Continental doesn’t exist anymore – until a few days ago, you could still buy tickets on continental.com with the Continental name on them. You could, but I didn’t. Their price just wasn’t right, especially when you add in $50 each in bag fees. Southwest doesn’t charge you for your bag. In fact, they don’t charge you if you check TWO bags. I’m practically making money on this deal.

We have gone to the Bay Area every other year for the past little while, and we always fly Continental out of IAH. There’s a system in place. But this time, it’ll be Southwest out of Hobby. I haven’t even been to Hobby in probably 15 years. I may like surprises and seat-of-the-pants action for some things, but when it comes to traveling I like my little ducks in their little row, each wearing appropriate footwear, sunblock and layered clothing in case it gets hot/cold. But, change is good.

My friends have long made fun of my vacation planning. For a couple of months before we go anywhere, I am all over the interwebs looking for shit to do, food to eat and cool places to sleep. This information is poured over and distilled into a three-ring binder that serves as the bible for our journeys. I won’t show you the inside of the binder (it might scare you), but I will show you the photo that sits in the sleeve of the outside of the binder, which has gone on a lot of trips. It’s a totem, of sorts, that helps guarantee a good time on our travels.


I love this photo for so many reasons. For one, my grandparents Ted and Elsie (who are on the right) are kicking fashionable ass. I love her shoes and his tie. And the fact that it looks like he just threw out some bullshit and they are all looking at the other guy for his response. And the other dude doesn’t know what to say. Runs in the family. My grandfather was a journalist and then an ad man. I went to an awards show for Houston ad agencies a couple of weeks ago (since I’m now in the ad biz). It was a 100th anniversary celebration, and at one point they did an in memoriam video that flashed the names of ad hotshots who’d passed over the past 50 years. It was cool to see Lloyd Gregory, a man my grandfather worked for, flash on the screen. Connection.

Friday list

  • The winner of a copy of Tiny Homes – Simple Shelter (see previous post) is John E. I used random.org to pick a name. Since Half-Price books always gives me such a shitty return on my book investments, I think I’m going to start giving books away here. Media mail is pretty cheap, and I’d rather spend a couple of bucks to give books to people who want them than leave them with snotty hipsters wearing too much facial jewelry who sneer at my taste in reading material. (the Tiny Homes book is a new copy – I’m keeping mine – but future giveaways may be gently used)
  • When I’m paying for dinner and the waiter hands the credit card and receipt to James instead of me (when the card most obviously says CRYSTAL JACKSON at the bottom), I deduct a dollar from the tip.
  • I watched the first five minutes of Ice Loves Coco last night. What can I say – it’s been an intense week at work, and I made a stupid decision to allow the TV to rest on something mindless. I’ve never seen the show, so I don’t know if this was representative or not, but the few minutes that I watched featured Coco discussing her love of fabric softener sheets. She puts five in the dryer at a time because she loves the smell so much. She kept bringing a sheet to her nose and inhaling deeply, almost snorting the thing. Ice (back in my day, he went by Ice-T) rubbed a sheet all over his head, which she then started sniffing. Only she was really dedicated to it. Reminded me of a National Geographic show I saw when I was a kid where scientists were sniffing people’s armpits. For science. She looked very focused and serious, sniffing here and there, moving his head around for the best nose-to-noggin angle. Also, she was wearing a pink velour sweatsuit. This is why I stick to Comedy Central and science channels. I don’t do well out in the wild on my own.
  • AT&T continues to honor my brother Mason with the Mason Jackson Eternal Flame Award. This was the second year they gave out the award, and thanks to one of Mason’s friends I was able to communicate with the winner. Check out the story here.

book giveaway

It’s time for another book giveaway. As with the last giveaway–Travels with Charley–this book is one that I have an emotional connection to. A book that transports me away from where I’m sitting each time I open it up. The book = Tiny Homes – Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn.

I’ve often mentioned Lloyd Kahn, a writer/builder/creator/small house movement leader/badass dude. He posts in his blog every day, often more than once, sharing stories about life in N. California. He has a zest for living that I find inspiring, and I aspire to be a little bit like Lloyd in my daily life – noticing beauty, enjoying other people’s talents, paying attention to the details, dreaming, taking risks, making shit happen.

Tiny Homes – Simple Shelter was released last month and is already in its second printing. One reason the book is so popular is it embodies the housing/lifestyle movement of the moment, as people look to get out from under suffocating mortgages and simplify their lives. Another reason for its popularity is that it’s a beautiful book–gorgeous, glowing and green. Even if small houses aren’t your thing, you can enjoy it from a purely artistic standpoint. And I think by the end of the book, you’d find that maybe you are sort of interested in small dwellings.

Here’s a video featuring Lloyd discussing the making of the book.

If you want to see what it is I keep prattling on about and would like your own copy of Tiny Homes, leave a comment on this post about a dream that you have for the future. Big, little, crazy or sane. Whatever you feel like sharing. I’ll pick a person at random next Sunday to receive the book. Make sure to give your real email address when you leave your comment (only I will be able to see it), but feel free to leave a fake name if you’re shy.

I’ll start. Some day, I want to live in a place with no mortgage. Where the area outside my home is as much a part of my house as the inside is. A clutter-free space with room to breathe, lovely views, a fireplace, a bed in a cozy nook, lots of books and music, dogs and James. And wifi. The air is crisp and green. There’s water nearby. Ideally, this place will have been built with my two hands and my back, and the hands and backs of people close to me. It’s located within an hour of a major city, but far enough out that the sheer volume of stars is overwhelming and humbling. A place where the zombie apocalypse probably won’t reach.

Your turn.

spell check, mofos

Were my driving and photography skills better able to coexist, the photo above would have captured what I wanted to show you. Instead, you’ll have to take my word for it.

That electronic sign there on the right is supposed to let people know that, since the 45 N exit is closed, they should use the Heights exit. Only it says Heigths instead. And it has been misspelled since Friday last week. Either they don’t know, don’t show or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.

(insert pithy segue) I’m glad Valentine’s Day is over. Facebook was intolerable yesterday. I kept waiting to see a photo of a chick with a bouquet of flowers poking out of her ass, an ugly tennis bracelet blinging on her arm and a row of chocolate stained teeth grinning wide with the comment, “OMG! BEST BOYFRIEND EVER!! I LUV U BOO♥” underneath it. These are usually the same chicks who are masters of passive-aggressive facebook commentary the rest of the year. You know, things like, “Well that’s the LAST time I’m going out of my way to do something nice for someone WHO OBVIOUSLY DOESN’T CARE enough to say thank you.” I’m glad guys don’t feel the need to wax poetic about the blow job or oil change gift certificate or tie or whatever they get on VD.

Here’s a nice thought. Tomorrow (hopefully) I’m going to announce the next book giveaway on this blog. Watch this space. Tomorrow. Or maybe Friday. But soon.

And Happy Valentine’s Day. I may not have sent flowers you could show off to your bitter coworkers, but I did send sweet thoughts. To most of you.

it even smells the same

Sadly, I'm still looking for a fuzzy pumper.

Last weekend was my nephew Rowan’s third birthday. Now that he’s getting a little older, buying presents for him is becoming more fun. Instead of ironic baby tee shirts that reference my youth and not his, I can now buy him fun toys (that also reference my youth). What I mean is, I’m now able to give him shit that I want to play with.

Case in point: for his birthday we gave him a bunch of Play-Doh (24 different colors, if you can imagine that) (even black, for the goth kids) and a collection of molds to make camping stuff (logs for the fire, hamburger, hot dog, fish, bugs, bear shitting in the woods, Unabomber). What started as an effort to engage Rowan in his new toys at his birthday party turned into me hoarding the cooler molds and colors and elbowing everyone else out of the way.

Who knew playing with Play-doh would still be so fun? And surprisingly gratifying? Tohner made a good point – with Play-Doh, you’re not really worried about the final product. It’s a temporary thing you’re creating just long enough to go, “Hey look! I made a purple spider with blue eyes!” before smashing it all together in your fist. I love doing stuff with my hands, but I’m usually working toward some end game. With the Play-doh, it is all about the experience. Would it be creepy if I bought a set for our house? I could always say it’s for when the kids visit.

Oh, and it still smells exactly the same. Even though it’s probably made in China from lead and asbestos now.

PS (unrelated) – Why is there a cartoon Napoleon Dynamite? That just seems like a bad idea all the way around.

gusto hurts

Let it not be said that I don’t do things with gusto.

Thursday morning, I was leaving for work with my hands full. Backpack, lunch bag, notebook and large water bottle in a one-handed juggle as I used the other hand to close the front door. As I stepped through the threshold, I was taken for a moment by the blueness of the sky. We’ve had a lot of gray days, and though I don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder (except around August when I’m depressed about how hot I’ve been for so many months in a row), I was happy to see a bright, clear sky. So happy, in fact, that I paid little attention to what my right hand was doing as I thought to myself, “What a beautiful fucking day.”

Our front door has been sticking since we got that huge dose of rain a few weeks back. The sticking has required a decent amount of force to open and shut the door. In addition, our doorknob is about an inch closer to the door jamb than it should be. I’ve (gently) knocked my hand on the threshold a number of times over the two plus years we’ve lived here. I don’t know who built this place, but I think the builder was on whatever the ’50s version of crack was. A lot of things about this house are a little…off. Wall sockets are crooked, the floors slope (though I think that relates to a jacked foundation), there are phantom light switches that don’t seem to control anything in the house. Coupled with what we assume is a dog’s grave in the backyard, it just adds to the charm.

Now you have the back story. Hands full, distractingly beautiful morning, door doesn’t shut unless you jerk it hard. All of this leads to me pulling the door shut with not a little bit of torque, effectively slamming my hand in the jamb. It hurt so badly, my knees went weak. I stumbled back into the house to drop the load I was carrying and whimper. But no tears. The only thing that makes me cry is emotional pain.

The gash in my hand is healing and the entire thing is an ugly blue-green, but all my digits are still able to digitize (as evidenced by this blog post), so I think everything will be okay. I just need to slow my roll on the multi-tasking in the morning.

shouldn’t have tried to be fancy

Being an old pro at visiting burger joints, shacks and shanties, I should have known better. It was an amateur mistake, and it led to my not having any lunch yesterday.

Here’s the deal. I needed to hit an old school and previously unvisited (by me) burger stand so I could gather information to write a profile about it for a client. I’m the perfect person for this job, no? A few coworkers came along for the journey. It was a pretty, breezy day, just right for sitting outside and chomping on a burger.

It happened so fast. The menu (multiple pages) was plastered on the window of the stand. Too many choices. Tacos, burgers, fried shrimp, tortas. There were people in line behind me, so I didn’t have the luxury of perusing my options. I had to go for it. This is where I went off script. See, they had a sign proclaiming the arrival of chicken strips, which they seemed to be very excited about. The excitement was contagious because out of my mouth came, “Chicken strips, please” instead of “cheeseburger, all the way.” And that’s when the train went off the tracks.

Don’t know if the chicken strips they’re so excited about are good or not because that is not, in fact, what was in my bag when they handed me my order. I ended up with fried chicken. On the bone. Though I’m an avowed meat eater, I draw the line at eating things on the bone. The act of ripping meat with my teeth grosses me out. A silly thing, but a thing just the same.

I tried tearing bite-size pieces of the chicken off with my fingers, but the skin was so greasy and hard it was an impossible task. The pigeons that quickly surrounded our table seemed pretty interested, but I don’t feed bird to birds. I looked at the fat pigeons that were so barrel-chested I doubt they can fly anymore. I looked at my chicken, which was of a similar size. I made an uncomfortable connection between the two. I gave up.

The lesson here? When visiting a burger joint, don’t try to be fancy or you might end up with an order of fried pigeon-chicken.


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Seriously, what is wrong with people?

stink eye

I always get my weekly grocery shopping out of the way on Sunday morning, no matter how late my Saturday night might have been. If you don’t go early on Sunday, you end up knee-deep in the throngs of slow shoppers. They chat in front of the produce scales instead of weighing their shit and moving on. They leave their cart in the middle of the aisle to look at something shiny that caught their eye. They stand three across discussing the merits of this salad dressing versus that. It’s maddening for a person who walks fast and writes her grocery list in the order the items appear in the store in order to eliminate unnecessary browsing. Sounds fun, huh? That’s why I go alone.

Because it’s early and I pretty much literally roll out of bed, put on clothes and head to the store, I don’t make much eye contact while I’m shopping. Not looking to get into a conversation with the chipper lady who’s been up since 6 or the crusty old man who can’t find the chutney.

I was nearing the end of my weekly chore this morning when I broke my rule. I was on the main aisle and needed to turn left to get some detergent. There was a guy coming my direction whom I needed to let pass before I could move forward. I glanced up, and he was looking me dead in the eye. Giving me the stink eye. He looked at me like I’d just puked on his grocery basket or called his mama a whore. I’m looking at him, probably with surprise on my face, and he’s staring at me as he continues pushing his shopping cart, having to turn his head as he goes by in order to maintain angry eye contact. This went on for a few seconds, which is fairly intense for this type of interaction.

It was so weird, I sort of wanted to turn around and follow him to see what the deal was. Instead, I kept walking.



open letter

Dear Man Jogging Down I-10 Around 7PM Tonight During Heavy Traffic,

I saw you for the first time a couple of hours ago on my way home from work. I was driving my car on the freeway when something caught my eye. It was something that moved unlike a car. A bit of whimsy in the midst of smog-inducing, butt-numbing traffic. It was you, jogging down the shoulder of the freeway as if you had been loosed upon the tundra after a period of confinement.

You were in my sights for no more than a moment or two, yet I still took in the details of your being. You were wearing a white shirt, black shorts and exercise shoes of some flavor. Your clothes were snug, as if you wanted nothing to slow you down. You had good form and appeared to move quickly, though not as quickly as I was, even in traffic, sitting on my ass in my car, listening to music, looking at you. I wonder how many other drivers almost popped their necks, jerking their heads to look to the right. At you, jogging down the shoulder of the freeway as if you were on the first leg of a short run.

There exists the possibility that your car broke down and you’d forgotten your cellphone, so you were forced to let your feet do the jogging. But you weren’t in work attire (unless you work as a model for bike shorts). And you weren’t moving like someone who had the misfortune to break down on the freeway. Granted, I’ve never seen anyone jogging away from their abandoned car, but I would imagine there would be a resigned hunch in their shoulders, a “why me” sort of gait. But you, you were jogging down the shoulder of the freeway as if you were in the midst of an urban workout that requires adrenaline and a death wish. Or as if you were running from zombies–a cautionary tale for the rest of us. No, I know what it was.

You were jogging down the shoulder of the freeway the way I would jog to a wine and puppy party.

Whatever your destination and whatever your reason(s), I hope you made it where you were going. Thanks for making the drive home more…confusing.